The Cobb County Civic Center, or Hudgins Hall, located on South Marietta Parkway and Fairground Street, will be closed for nearly a year in 2015 for infrastructure improvements. The Jennie T. Anderson Theatre, next door in the Larry Bell Park complex, is not included in the revamp by the county.
The commissioners approved a contract with Norcross-based Hogan Construction Group, LLC for $5.2 million to come out of funds from the 2011 special purpose local option sales tax, including $360,000 in management fees to Hogan Construction Group.
The Civic Center is a 34,500-square-foot building constructed in 1972 from a county bond, said Tom Bills, senior construction project manager for Cobb’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department.
Bills said the facility is in need of improvements to meet city codes enforced by Marietta and upgrades to improve the center’s functionality.
The plans are still in the early stages of design, Bill said, adding the list of exact projects will be dependent on how much can be done with $5 million.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” he said. “A lot of this is budget driven. We are going to make the most out of that.”
Construction will start by the end of March and will take 10 to 12 months, Bills said. While the Civic Center is closed, the county is encouraging vendors to temporarily host events in buildings at the fairgrounds, the Cobb Galleria and Kennesaw State University.
Eddie Canon, director of Cobb’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department, said he played in basketball tournaments at the Civic Center as a kid while attending Roswell High School.
“It has always been here,” he said.
The Civic Center predates the Cobb Galleria as the premier event space in the county, Canon said. He hopes updating the facility will draw in even more events and visitors.
Canon said the center is booked almost every weekend with a wide variety of events. The space serves as a venue for craft markets, with booths stationed by artists from all over the Southeast. There are also exhibitions for gem and gun shows.
Cobb’s roller derby team, the Marietta Derby Darlins, uses the gymnasium of the Civic Center as the team’s home track.
The largest event is the opening ceremony each January for Special Olympics Georgia’s State Indoor Winter Games, an athletic competition for children and adults who have intellectual disabilities. Athletes from around the state compete in activities ranging from basketball to roller skating.
Cobb’s economy benefits from visitors to the Civic Center who stay in Marietta all weekend and spend money at restaurants and hotels, said Commissioner Helen Goreham, who represents the district where the center sits.
“The community knows the value of the facility and enjoys it,” she said.
Improvements for the space were placed on the SPLOST list, Goreham said, after years of discussion about the aging building.
There have been some improvements, such as a roof replacement 12 years ago, Bills said.
He said a variety of needed projects have been identified, such as repaving the parking lot and upgrading the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
There are also plans to install new technology so vendors have better access to power, Bills said, as well as adding a Wi-Fi Internet connection and interactive signage from message boards to direct guests.
These efforts would make the venue more attractive to vendors, Bills said, meaning an increase in revenue for the county.
Another feature that might be added is a catering kitchen, which Bills said would allow banquets and food vendors to utilize the space.
“It opens the doors for other types of gatherings,” he said.
There is also a need for “breakout rooms,” Goreham said, where judges and coaches could meet during events such as the Special Olympics or sports tournaments.
Outside of what must be done, Bills said there is also a wish list.
“Five million dollars is a lot, but it is not enough for everything we want to get done,” he said.
The largest project within the revamp could be an overhaul of the front entrance area of the Civic Center.
Visitors come through one of many doors in a glass wall and have a limited amount of space until a centered set of stairs leads down to the gymnasium floor.
On one side of the entrance space is the ticket office. On the other side has a concession window.
Goreham said the problem has been with people gathering to talk, purchase tickets and buy food in the small space.
“This area is very congested,” she said.
Bills said it would be ideal to have stairs on the sides, giving more area in the center for a true lobby.
There is a possibility, Bills said, the entrance would even expand out from the building into the large outdoor plaza area.